You may recall a story from early last week about a monkey on an airplane bound for Las Vegas. Initial reports indicated that the monkey was loose on the plane. That turned out not to be true.
In the end, it was determined that the monkey, named Gizmo, was an “emotion support” animal owned by Jason Ellis, a Las Vegas resident. The man and monkey went on their way. And that was the end of the story.
But this episode made us wonder about service and emotional support animals. What's a "service" animal and what's an "emotional support" animal? Are they permitted in public places?
Jan Garrett, the program manager of the Pacific ADA Center, fields questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act.
She said 'service animals' must be able to perform one specific task for a person, but an 'emotional support animal' is usually for someone who has a mental health disability that may not be obvious.
The ADA covers public spaces and government buildings but it does not apply to airlines, Garrett said.
The airlines are covered by the Air Carrier Access Act. Under that act, the rules for service animals are different from emotional support animals.
“If the person can provide credible assurances to the air carrier that this animal is a service animal and that it does perform one or more tasks for them, then the air carrier should not be asking for further documentation on a service animal,” she said.
However, when it comes to emotional support animal, an airline can ask for proof and that proof can be from a medical professional. There are also rules about the types of animals that can be allowed. For instance, snakes or spiders don't have be allowed by the airline. Garrett said monkeys maybe allowed but the owner would have to have specific documentation.
Beyond the airlines, the ADA rules for service animals apply everywhere, but the ADA does not cover emotional support animals in public places, Garrett explained.
In addition, the ADA only covers dogs and miniature horses. Yes, miniature horses. Garrett said there are height rules for the types of horses that are allowed but some people prefer horses because they live longer than dogs and are stronger.
“Those are the only two animals mentioned in the Americans with Disabilities Act,” she said.
Garrett also dismissed websites where people can buy certificates and vests for their service animals. She said people can save their money.
“The Department of Justice says that you are not required to have a certificate regarding a service animal," she said, "You are not required to have a vest or anything else."
Jan Garrett, program manager, Pacific ADA Center, Oakland, Calif.
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